RapidWeaver 5.0 Details Emerge

Big news was released this week regarding features for RapidWeaver 5.0. This is official news straight from Realmac Software and the full details can be found here. I would love to make some comments of my own regarding the announced features, so I will do so below.

What’s New?

Over a dozen brand new themes, designed by world-renowned designers.
The current offering of built-in themes is severely lacking in flexibility and design that is up-to-par with current trends. While I love 3rd-party themes and the theme development community, I think it’s important that RapidWeaver ship with some high-quality themes in order to be taken seriously as a website design application. There’s no doubt that people demo RapidWeaver and drop it before even realizing there are 3rd-party themes, simply because they are less than impressed with the built-in theme selection. Also, the mention of “world-renowned designers” really raises expectations for these themes, so they had better be great!

Site Resources: we’ve entirely re-worked the ‘Assets’ feature of RapidWeaver to allow folks to add global site resources (now found in the sidebar) that can be linked to from any page.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!! Laugh RapidWeaver’s ‘Assets’ feature has always been one of the very few poorly implemented features of the software. I am thrilled to see this change to a global setting, and I can only assume that it will be well-executed. This change should make it far less intimidating to work with assets added directly to a RapidWeaver project.

Automatic built-in XML Sitemap generation and All-new, built-in Sitemap page type for creating an HTML sitemap.
This is good news and a feature that I do think needs to be standard with RapidWeaver. In the official news posting it is mentioned that this does overlap with Loghound’s Sitemap plugin, but the Sitemap plugin will still have its place for power-users. John at Loghound does outstanding work and it should be evident from the RapidWeaver Classroom tutorials that I think very highly of his products, so I did have mixed feelings about this news for John’s sake. All-in-all, though, I do think it is important for Sitemap generation to be standard with every website RapidWeaver creates.

CSS consolidation to speed up page loading.
Many users may not see the importance of this feature because it’s something that will occur in the background (I assume), but it is a big deal and I am very excited it will be included. In an attempt at a quick and simple explanation, every theme variation under the Styles tab is tied to a separate CSS file. Each of these CSS files must be uploaded to your server and referenced by the HTML files associated with your webpages. CSS consolidation will take all the code in those individual CSS files and place it all into one file -- this means that only one CSS file will need to be published to your server, and only one CSS document will have to be referenced in your HTML files. This should speed-up your publishing time, the load times of your webpages, and create cleaner HTML code in your pages.

FTP bookmarks
While I wouldn’t consider this a major feature, it is a welcome convenience for the large majority who publish their sites with RapidWeaver. FTP bookmarks would allow you to save multiple instances of publishing settings, so that you wouldn’t have to clear the fields and re-enter your information in the Publishing Settings whenever you want to change where your site is being published. In the RapidWeaver Classroom tutorials I recommend publishing your website to a test directory before publishing it live -- typically the first time you publish and then when you make major updates. In this scenario, you could have an FTP bookmark for the test directory on your server, as well as a bookmark for the root folder. This feature will save time and the hassle of looking up usernames and passwords for publishing.

What’s Missing?

Inevitably, there will be features that are hoped for but not included in an update to any software application. There are some widely requested features, and others that are more specific to a niche and ultimately not useful to the regular user. I’m sure that Realmac Software chooses to focus its efforts on features that will affect the widest range of users, and I am certainly excited by the features announced so far. For the sake of discussion, though, here are just a few requests that have been tossed around somewhat frequently, and don’t appear to have made the cut.

Updates to built-in page types
This is a very general request, but aside from the addition of a Sitemap page, there hasn’t been any mention of updates to any of the page-types. The File-Sharing, Movie Album, QuickTime, and Photo Album pages are a few that could benefit from some kind of refresh. I think this could be done without any major impact to existing 3rd-party plugins as well.

Improvement in functionality of the Master Styles feature
Working with Master Styles for your theme can be maddening at times, and in my opinion it is neck-and-neck with Page Assets for the poorest implemented feature. At this point there doesn’t appear to be any improvement coming for this feature.

A built-in ExtraContent-like feature
ExtraContent is a brilliant enhancement to 3rd-party themes, but official, built-in support for a feature that accomplishes the same goal has been widely requested for some time. It is confirmed that we won’t be seeing this type of feature in the version 5.0 release.

Content Management System (CMS)
Version 5.0 of RapidWeaver will not include any native support for a CMS. I certainly understand why this is a widely requested feature, but I am torn in my opinion on it because I don’t want to see RapidWeaver become too complex. If CMS support is ever added to RapidWeaver, then it needs to be very well-executed, resulting in an intuitive, easy-to-use solution. I have no expectations for this in terms of if and when, but for now there are certainly other ways of integrating a CMS if needed.

When is the Release Date?

The official details state “mid-2010” for the 5.0 release. This will be a paid upgrade, and by the time version 5.0 is available it will have been about 3 years since a paid upgrade was released. I am certainly looking forward to the new features announced this week, and whatever other surprises that might be in store. In the meantime, we will be seeing a version 4.4 release in the very near future, so that will have to tide us over for the time being. Happy
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